Archive for January, 2011
2010 was a busy year for Francis Ng. Just out of the gate on New Year’s Day, Francis made headlines across Asia when he and his Singaporean wife got into a tiff with another customer at a Hong Kong bakery. Apparently Francis’ wife complained when a worker sweeping the floor started getting dust on the baked goods. She and the worker got into it, then another patron jumped into the fray, mouthing off to the missus and possibly pushing her to the floor. Francis, who had been waiting in the car with his 1-year-old kid, heard the commotion, charged into the bakery, and allegedly grabbed the offending customer by the neck and slapped him upside the head. Photos from the scene showed the guy with a bloodied ear and Francis’ wife clutching her damaged hipbone. Francis went to the police station, everyone else went to the hospital, and the Asian press had a field day.
Francis was charged with assault, although he claimed he was only trying to protect his wife. No doubt the best thing about the incident was that it was re-enacted in one of Next Media’s renowned computer animation sequences for Apple Daily News in Taiwan, with Francis joining Tiger Woods, Lindsey Lohan, and other disgraced luminaries in CGI-rendered infamy.
Netizens were fairly divided on the topic, with some giving props to Francis for chivalrously supporting his wife and others chiding him for his straight-up thuggin’. His Hong Kong movie pals also leapt to his defense, with Michael “Laughing Gor” Tse claiming, “It is a man’s duty to protect his girl. I would have stepped up as well.”
The case dragged on until April when Francis pled guilty to “wounding” and was fined HK $10,000. At his final court appearance Francis looked particularly unhappy, dressed in a brown suit and wearing unflattering black glasses that made him look like a vaguely sinister high school chemistry teacher.
For better or worse, Francis laid low for a while, avoiding appearing in public in Hong Kong. Professionally he kept busy, shooting three films (Wind Blast, Midnight Beating, and The Warring States) in quick succession in mainland China.
But by fall the beatdown incident was mostly forgotten and Francis enjoyed a resurgence of popularity.
Wind Blast was released at the end of October and was the number one film in China for three weeks running, knocking Tsui Hark’s Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame out of the top spot and earning in excess of RMB 68 million.
The hybridized gangster flick/Western set in the Gobi Desert featured elaborate action sequences including a dusty chase scene involving a Jeep Cherokee, a couple horses, and a gigantic yellow dump truck. Francis in particular was lauded for his portrayal of a world-weary, conflicted bounty hunter and he stole the show from a cast of mainland movie stars including Wu Jing, Duan Yihong, and Ni Dahong. His character’s distinctive red leather jacket briefly became a icon and Francis modeled variations on the theme in a couple high-fashion photo shoots.
Francis also landed on the cover of the Chinese fashion magazine Mr. Mode, sporting a black double-breasted trench coat and a little moue that his good buddy Anthony Wong then ruthlessly parodied for a Chinese newspaper.
Francis later was photographed in Beijing shopping for presents for his kid’s second birthday, which further ingratiated him to the public in China and Hong Kong. He made guest appearances on Chinese television showing off his improving putonghua skills and modeled his natty b-boy wardrobe and continually changing hairstyles in the Chinese press. He also appeared at an event for Jet Li’s One Foundation charity that benefitted autistic children,which further rehabilitated his public rep.
But Francis made the news one more time at the very end of the year. In early December several pictures showed up on the interwebs of what appeared to be Francis getting busy with an unnamed young woman, harkening back to the infamous “sexy photogate” scandal that sank Edison Chen’s career.
News agencies across China gleefully flashed the pix around the ‘net and it seemed like Francis had again been caught with his pants down (see Ellen Chen karaoke oopsie). However, upon closer examination it was apparent that the photos were stills from Midnight Beating, Francis’ upcoming low-budget horror flick (also starring Simon Yam and a quartet of Chinese starlets) and that the woman in question was in fact Francis’ co-star. Cheap publicity stunt or honest mistake?
At any rate, Midnight Beating was released on Christmas Eve and even up against heavy-hitters like Jiang Wen’s Let The Bullets Fly and Feng Xiaomeng’s If You Are The One 2, the cheapie screamfest made a respectable showing at the box office (before it showed up a couple weeks later on the torrent streams, of course).
Francis has subsequently finished shooting Love Island (also starring Simon Yam, Chang Cheh, and Joan Chen, among many others) and Traffic (with this year’s Golden Horse Best Actress Lu Li-ping, and Wind Blast’s Ni Dahong), and he’s on board for A Land Without Boundaries in 2011. Due out in April is The Warring States, Francis’ first period costume film, and its publicity machine is already revving up. The film promises to be a flashy extravaganza, with Francis and co-star Sun Honglei duking it out for the title of most badass.
All in all it’s been an eventful year for our boy Francis, who’s shown an uncanny ability to bounce back from public brawling, internet scorn, bad hair, and myriad other obstacles. Like a cat, Francis just keeps landing on his feet.
I’m a little irked at last week’s Daily Show segment that punk’d San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar for sponsoring legislation to ban McDonald’s Happy Meals in San Francisco. Aasif Mandvi mugs and pops his eyes at the suggestion that the government should have any role in preventing corporations like McDonalds from marketing toxic, cancer- and obesity-causing poison as food. Mandvi even uses the term “nanny state” to describe regulation, which is a straight-up Fox News talking point. He also suggests that the Board of Supes banning Happy Meals would be like forcing Netflix to send all SF residents free copies of Supersize Me. Sure, it’s a funny gotcha moment, but it’s really a stupid false equivalency–one prevents an action, the other mandates one. I’m no lawyer but even I could see the faulty reasoning behind that one.
I can’t believe I have to even say this but fast food has been repeatedly documented to be total crap, so what’s the point of siding with McDonald’s and its fucked up, evil and bottom-line driven agenda of stuffing people with garbage that kills them? It can’t be that hard to understand that marketing edible poison to little kids with the lure of a cheap and shiny plastic toy is inherently messed up and venal.
And invoking the “nanny state” is straight out of the conservative anti-regulation playbook. Sure, give multinational corporations like McDonald’s free rein to regulate themselves and of course they’ll do what’s socially, morally and ethically responsible. How’s that working out for you, Enron, WaMu, and Halliburton?
Mandvi and the producers at The Daily Show really failed with this one. I guess I’ve been lulled into thinking that The Daily Show has some kind of oppositional cred since in the past Jon Stewart & Co. have successfully satirized other corporate and governmental malfeasance. But the show itself is on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, one of the biggest communications corporations in the world. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find that The Daily Show is reluctant to bite the pecuniary hand that feeds it.
UPDATE: Just in case you need more evidence, Taco Bell is being sued for false advertising because the “meat” in their tacos is only 36% beef.
UPDATE 2: Public health attorney Michele Simon busts out the legal argument on alternet.org: Why “Happy Meals” Are A Crime. She succinctly notes, “Ample science, along with statements by various professional organizations tells us that marketing to young children is both deceptive and unfair. Why? Because young children simply do not have the cognitive capacity to understand that they are being marketed to; they cannot comprehend “persuasive intent,” the linchpin of advertising.”
This one’s for you, Aasif. MDC live, Corporate Death Burger